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SA’s top walkers make big strides towards Beijing
- Updated: October 25, 2014
South Africa’s top walkers have taken a few more steps on the long walk to Beijing and next year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships, writes Mark Etheridge.
The recent SA race walking championships took place in Cape Town and there were some extremely solid performances across the various distances and age-group categories.
Provincially speaking Gauteng North won the day with the most gold medals received, ahead of Western Province Athletics and Central Gauteng Athletics.
The Youth 10km was won by Pierre Vermaak in exactly 46:00 minutes and qualifying for the IAAF World Youth Championships [IAAF Standard is 47:30] in Colombia next year. An excellent feat, considering that just a few years ago he was fighting for his life after being hit by a taxi while training.
The Junior women’s 10km was won by Anel Oosthuizen and she’s also earmarked for Beijing 2015. She walked 51:16 and told Road to Rio 2016: ‘I was out to break my record of 48:59 that I set in China [at the world cup] earlier this year but things didn’t work out on the day. But I still enjoyed my race and am motivated to just work harder.
‘I’m now moving up to 20km, the Olympic distance and will be concentrating on that. The highlight of my day was doing the 3km development race with a little 10-year-old from Western Province [see picture]. He is proof that there is so much walking talent out there.. and future Olympic champions.’
One of the races of the day came from Corli Swart in the senior women’s 20km. She won in a time of 1:40:58, a huge personal best for her and six minutes faster than her 2013 time.
And like Vermaak, her success also came after a horrific car crash injury. ‘I just had so much fun walking again and just enjoyed every moment of it. I went out as hard as I could just to see where I stood so far in my training after my accident. My car accident was in July 2010 just after I competed in my first World Cup as a junior. I rolled my car on the gravel road on my way home to the farm in Free State. I fell out of the car and the car ended up on top of me. I broke my back and my right leg was paralysed. I was rather lucky to come out only with these injuries. My recovery was also rather fast and I was blessed in so many ways.
‘My journey to being a competitive walker again was a long one and considered quitting a few times to be totally honest. Close friends within the walking circle kept on motivating me and I stuck to my task. Although I am not yet competitive enough in the world class of race walkers, my times just keep on getting better. I love walking and competing again and through hard work and dedication I will definitely come out on top.’ Both Oosthuizen and Swart will be targeting an IAAF A standard of 1:38:00 for Beijing in 2015.
The 20km men’s race in Cape Town went to Lebogang Shange, his first race as African champion. He won in 1:31:25 ahead of 2012 London Olympian Marc Mundell. Shange didn’t have the incentive to push any harder for a better time as currently the sport’s governing body, the IAAF don’t recognise performances on SA soil as there is insufficient funding to comply with the costs of international judging judging according to IAAF regulations. But Shange has already qualified for Beijing next year, recording a 1:24:18 in China, [as has Mundell who recorded 4:02:16 in China in his preferred 50km race distance], within the IAAF standards of 1:25:00 and 4:06:00 for the 20km and 50km distances respectively.
Picture: Jonathan Joseph (Cape Town Sport Photography)